We can work together to strengthen abuse laws

Published 10:35 pm Saturday, July 29, 2017

On Saturday, I was honored to speak to those attending a joint conference held in Jackson by the United Spay Alliance, Mississippi Spay and Neuter and the Animal Advocacy Initiative of Mississippi.

The conference was held to see where we are in Mississippi and the South in terms of spaying and neutering animals in an effort to decrease animal cruelty.

Part of my charge was to talk about state Sen. Angela Hill’s failed bill to strengthen laws in Mississippi governing cruelty to dogs and cats.

Hill, a Picayune Republican, introduced legislation in 2016 and 2017, both failed. This year, the Mississippi Dog and Cat Protection Act didn’t make it out of the state Senate’s Agriculture Committee.

I talked to Sen. Hill Friday about Mississippi’s current animal cruelty legislation and where we go from here.

As Mississippi law stands now, when someone ties a dog to a tree, pours gasoline on it and sets it on fire and watches it burn to death and records it and posts it on Facebook, or posts live on Facebook while someone pours scalding water on a cat trapped in a cage or bashes a dog’s head in with a brick — and it’s that person first offense, or at least the first time they’ve been caught — that can only be charged as a misdemeanor in the state of Mississippi.

In Mississippi, animal neglect and dog fighting get the same punishment — a fine between $10 and $100 and a potential jail term between 10 and 100 days. And no matter how many animals are being neglected and abused, law enforcement can only make one charge of animal cruelty on a subject.

Something’s wrong in the Magnolia state.

Hill said the the opposition to bills aimed at making first offense aggravated animal cruelty a felony in Mississippi comes from Mississippi Farm Bureau.

In a statement after the defeat of Hill’s bill this year, Farm Bureau representatives said Farm Bureau members are against the cruelty and abuse of any animal, but they would like to see current laws fully enforced before considering changing them.

The problem with that is Mississippi’s current laws are so weak, it’s not worth anyone’s time to pursue those charges. Current animal abuse and cruelty laws in Mississippi are basically worthless.

The bigger issue, Hill said, is the issue is a societal problem, not just a problem for people who care for and want to protect animals.

“A misdemeanor charge for someone who is guilty of animal cruelty and abuse means that person can still get a job is a nursing home. That person can still get a job working in a day care,” Hill said Friday afternoon. “I don’t know about you, but someone who commits violence to an innocent cat or dog, I don’t want them around my children or my relatives. Most people who are sociopaths and psychopaths started off abusing animals.”

Those people who want to strengthen Mississippi’s animal abuse and cruelty laws are not extremists or left-leaning hippy liberals. They are people who care about dogs and cats and want protect them and subsequently protect all of us.

Farm Bureau buys the votes of our representatives and senators through campaign contributions — tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Pick up the phone and call your senator and representative. Email them. Text them. Send them a message on Facebook. Let them know you’re watching them. Remind them they were elected to represent you and your interests.

Change can come to Mississippi, but it’s not going to be easy. We’re all going to have to do our part and hold our elected officials accountable.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com.